(Nature.com) Companies and countries are working steadily towards the goal of quantum computing. Venture capitalists have poured money into dozens of quantum-computing start-up companies. Excitement and anticipation are mounting. Theoretical physicist Seth Lloyd at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge speaks for many when he says the field is in a period of explosive progress.
Meanwhile, researchers are seeing how far classical computing strategies can be taken. Both are valid research avenues. Recently, high-profile work by an 18-year-old computer scientist Ewin Tang taught an old computer a new trick — one that was previously thought to need a quantum system. Tang, who is now at the University of Washington in Seattle, and two colleagues followed up to demolish the quantum advantage of another type of algorithm for certain machine-learning tasks. Some in the field argue that these uses of classical computing are actually successes for quantum computing, because they show how the quantum way of thinking can have an impact, even before quantum computers exist.